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Even when Peter the Great, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, undertook the Europeanization of Russia, a Baroque style emerged, in which monasteries and churches kept many Byzantine elements, such as the clusters of domes and the towers with pyramidal roofs, which Russian art, hundreds of years earlier, had adopted, reproducing the native wooden architecture in stone.Following the decline and fall of Rome in about 450 CE, the centre of Christianity shifted to Byzantium (Constantinople) in present-day Turkey.Art historians believe that the Caucasus obtained its artistic know-how and traditions from Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), probably via Lebanon and the maritime trade route into the Black Sea.Fifteen centuries later, that is around 1000 BCE, the Caucasus and Steppes of southern Russia gave birth to the first of several tribal migrations of Celts into eastern and central Europe.Magdalenian era art in Russia is exemplified by the Kapova Cave Paintings in the Shulgan-Tash Preserve, Bashkortostan, in the southern Urals and also by Amur River Basin Pottery (14,300 BCE).Almost two thousand years before the Ancient Greeks stunned the civilized world with their architecture, marble statues, pottery, science and democracy, and roughly the same time that British and Irish tribesmen were building their megaliths at Newgrange and Stonehenge (see also megalithic art), Russian goldsmiths and silversmiths in the Caucasus region were creating exquisite metalwork in a variety of precious metals.In 1240 Chernigov and Kiev were taken, and by 1242 Russia had become part of the Mongol empire of the Golden Horde.The Khan of Kipchak, from his capital, Sarai, on a tributary of the Volga, ruled his Russian dominions as a despot.
The cathedral was reconstructed in the style of the Ukrainian baroque, and does not now convey much idea of the original plan, with its five naves.
Purely Russian elements appear more obviously in the miniature-painting of the period, as soon as it ceased to be practised exclusively by Greeks.
There are clear differences; lifelike animal and plant motifs appear together with conventionalized Byzantine faces, and bright reds and blues - always favourite colours of the Russians - emphasize the national character of these manuscript illuminations, which lasted into the thirteenth century.
This Iron Age art is exemplified by the famous Gold Bull of Maikop (2,500 BCE, Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg), which was discovered by archeologists in 1897 near the northern edge of the Caucasus mountains.
Standing roughly 3 inches high, and made of gold using the lost-wax process, it was excavated from what was believed to be a royal burial chamber.